- Couples may face problems when a lack of sexual intimacy becomes a source of stress for one or both partners.
- A lack of sex can be due to stress, boredom, mismatched sex drives, problematic porn use, or various health and medical conditions.
- It's important to speak honestly with a partner about one's needs for physical intimacy.
A "sexless marriage" can mean different things to different couples. But what they all have in common is a lack of physical intimacy that leaves one or both partners feeling alienated, unsatisfied, and disconnected. That feeling of disconnect is key. After all, a lack of sex is not necessarily a problem if both partners aren't bothered by it. But when a lack of sexual intimacy becomes a source of stress for one or both, the marriage may be at risk.
7 Common Causes of Sexless Marriages (and 7 Possible Solutions)
Changes in a couple's sex life are normal, especially when kids or other major changes enter the picture. Even so, it's possible for couples to maintain an active and satisfying sex life throughout a marriage—unless certain underlying factors arise and are left unaddressed.
Following are a few key factors which can lead to a sexless marriage, as well as suggestions for resolving them:
1. Stress. Sex is a powerful way to relieve stress for some people. But for others, psychological stress and worry make it hard to relax and become aroused.
Solution: Make stress management a priority by finding healthy ways to relax and cope, such as exercising, journaling, deep breathing practices, and even enhanced time management skills. For an added bonding bonus, do stress-busting activities together, like art or hiking.
2. Unresolved conflict. Physical intimacy fosters emotional intimacy—but it goes the other way, too. If partners are dealing (or not dealing) with unresolved marital conflict, then the lack of trust, openness, and emotional connection that occur as a result can become a major barrier to the bedroom.
Solution: Have those tough conversations and work together to resolve challenging issues in your marriage. Utilize tools and resources to improve your bond and communication skills, including books, seminars, and individual and couples counseling.
3. Erectile dysfunction (ED). According to UW Health, mild to moderate ED, or the inability to achieve or maintain an erection, affects about 10 percent of men per decade of life (e.g., 50% of men in their 50s, 60% of men in their 60s, etc.). For both physical and emotional reasons, this can lead to significant sexual challenges for men and their spouses. Sexual dysfunction in women—including vaginal dryness and dyspareunia (pain during sex)—can also contribute to sexlessness.
Solution: Talk to a doctor pronto. Sexual dysfunction can be managed with appropriate treatment, and it's often associated with other underlying health conditions that are treatable, too.
4. Mismatched sex drives. People have natural temperaments when it comes to how often they need sex in order to feel satisfied. Just imagine the frustration that can occur if one partner prefers sex once a month, but the other prefers sex weekly or even daily. In scenarios like these, neither partner is "wrong." But the frank difference in sex drives can become a major obstacle to mutual satisfaction.
Solution: Be clear with each other about your expectations and beliefs. In the meantime, consider penciling in times for lovemaking into your calendar. It might sound unappealing, but it can really help you prioritize physical intimacy together. Don't forget to set the mood with romance and foreplay.
Solution: Seek treatment for any underlying health conditions and be sure to maintain proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits.
6. Boredom. People in long-term relationships may face boredom and tedium in the bedroom. If sex feels like a chore rather than an opportunity to bond and experience pleasure, it's easy to see how some people become turned off to it.
Solution: Build intimacy and rapport in your relationship—go on dates, try new things in the bedroom, go on a vacation, or dress up "just because."
7. Problematic porn use. According to the American Psychology Association, porn has been shown to both hurt and help relationships, depending on the context. But a person's use of porn could lead to a sexless marriage if it causes them to lose interest in the "real thing" or negatively skews their expectations of intimacy.
Solution: Reduce your pornography use and speak to a licensed mental health professional if you need additional help.
3 Ways to Talk to Your Partner About Sex
Sexless marriages rarely get better without conscious, loving, and honest effort. If you're feeling sexually frustrated in your marriage, here are three ways to start a healthy conversation with your partner:
- Choose a comfortable time and place to talk about your sexual needs, desires, and expectations. Yes, this can be a hard conversation, but it's so important to be as honest as possible.
- Avoid the temptation to hinge the discussion on who is "right" and who is "wrong." Instead, approach the conversation with the goal of truly understanding each other and helping each other feel heard.
- Meet with a licensed marriage and family therapist or other counselor who can help you clarify your expectations and beliefs about sex and reach a solution that works for both of you.
Whether you and your partner have no sex at all or simply not enough, it's important to be honest with each other about your physical intimacy needs. These conversations can be difficult, so reach out to a therapist if you need some support—and know that it is possible to go from sexless to sexually satisfied.
Facebook image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock